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Joined up Welfare: proposals from Policy Exchange

Policy Exchange’s latest report sets out to tackle perceived problems with Jobcentres:

Jobcentres are failing to help people find long-term work and should be restructured under new plans that will enable private companies and charities to compete with government providers to offer more personalised and specialist support to jobseekers.

Its preference for offering a ‘single portal to services’ (p. 9) in order to provide a less atomized experience in some ways seems sensible.  (Although its professed keenness to avoid duplication was a bit ironic – the report is very repetitive and could easily have been trimmed down.)

As Martin Bright notes, this isn’t a left/right issue. It seems sensible to see whether any service could be performed better or more efficiently. However at least some of the apparent failure of Jobcentres to secure long term opportunities for the unemployed (p. 7) is likely to be down to a shortage of permanent jobs in many areas.

Although I take the point that a more ‘joined up’ experience might be helpful in many cases, there are also perhaps some concerns about bringing together services such as mental health provision, drug counselling and employment advice.  Just recently concerns were raised over threats to withdraw benefits from those who refused treatment for depression, for example.  Data-sharing (p. 43ff) is another potential concern, and this is perhaps flagged by the report’s slightly anxious and defensive tone at this point.

A key recommendation is that charities and the private sector should be more involved in providing services. Although it may be that some of these organisations have something to offer, they can also have problems of their own – remember A4E, a former favourite of David Cameron?  Charities may have agendas of their own too.